Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Wonderful Stupor of Submission

We have what I consider a lot of counter space in our kitchen. I enjoy seeing all that countertop clear; it looks big, spacious, clean and ready for action! A couple of weeks ago, a holiday cookie jar mysteriously appeared in a corner of the countertop. I moved it to a separate counter. The next morning, the cookie jar was sitting conspicuously in its original corner. Again, I moved it to the separate counter.

The next morning, after having cleverly managed to roll its way back to the original corner, it sat, glaring defiantly at me. It may even have snarled. Grumbling, I moved it back to the separate counter before I left for work. I wondered impatiently to myself, "What possible difference could it make to Susan where this confounded cookie jar sits?"

There would be no lulling me into some automaton-like stupor of submission! On it went, until the weekend came and she challenged me on my repeated attempts to move the cookie jar elsewhere. I explained, importantly, how I appreciated seeing the countertop surface clear and clean.

Case closed.

Today is that inane day named for the sport in which short-tempered shoppers are most likely to engage, while in crowded stores stocked with insufficent numbers of low-priced items. I prefer lying low on Boxing Day, so I've made it "Blogging Day". Christmas has come and gone and, hey, there will be no more sinking feeling when I play drums! For the last couple of years, whenever I played, the drums around me would gradually get higher as my drum stool slid downward. Santa fixed all that by bringing me a drum stool that must be spun to have its height adjusted. Now when I play drums, the height of my snare, cymbals and tom-toms stays the same! It makes drumming so much more pleasant.

The headphones I mention in my blog of August 25th, 2010, kept on breaking. The first time they broke, I sent them away for repair and it took a couple of months before I finally got them back. Lately, repairs to the same headphones have been improvised by a kind colleague. First, the right side snapped and a screw and nut were used to put the broken part back together. Then, the left side snapped, with another screw and nut put in place to hold it together. Santa solved that problem, too! Now I have my own pair of Bose headphones with which to listen to my 4494-song iPod during daily train commutes. Once or twice, when my headphones broke, I managed to mooch my son's Bose headphones.

I am a mooch, no more.

Along with a few other items, Tristan decided he wanted the Kinect for Christmas. His request came a little late and, to tell you the truth, we could have been more prompt in our pursuit of the unit. Just as he asked a little late, we got busy buying a little late. As a result, for weeks, we searched high and low for the unit. We went to big electronics stores day after day, in the hopes a magic shipment might arrive; we found nothing but hollow apologies. Susan scoured the internet, checking the inventories of individual store branches. That, inevitably, led us on a few wild goose chases! We would excitedly race to stores, only to be told the forty that had been listed at the beginning of the day on the internet, had sold in a matter of sixty minutes!

We checked smaller stores, obscure stores and stores for boneheads who'd started shopping too late. Nothing. We couldn't find it anywhere and smug store clerks would look at me with quasi-scolding expressions as they solemnly announced, "You won't be getting it this Christmas." It wasn't looking too good when, out of the blue, a couple of days before Christmas, I got an e-mail from my wife explaining how a colleague of hers had found one and immediately bought it for us! I was astonished, elated and relieved, not necessarily in that order, although that may have been the precise sequence of emotion. She would have the Kinect with her when I met her for lunch in about an hour. I'd have to see it, to believe it!

Indeed, there it was. I must say, thanks to Michael's kindness, that lunch hour, with our son's main gift request safely in our hands, we were like the little dog who'd managed to steal a big, fresh, meaty bone right out from under the big dog's nose! We know exactly what that looks like because that's how our Westie, Spike, looks every time he goes for a walk! Anyway, that was us as, later that same lunch hour, we headed into the same electronics store we had been desperately visiting regularly. As the doors slid open, my wife said, flippantly, "Wouldn't it be funny if they had a whole stack of Kinects here, today?" I was still smiling and nodding as we stopped in front of the huge stack of neatly-piled Kinects welcoming us into the store.

Ho. Ho. Friggin' Ho.

Happily, the Kinect has already paid for itself! Seeing "The Great Geez", which is how we refer to nephew Tyler, try to guide his horse around the show jumping ring was worth all the shopping anguish. Unfortunately, for Tyler, the game instantly added itself to the long list of things we may never let him live down!

The holidays are going well. The first of two yearly "holiday hockey" sessions happens tomorrow. I rent the local arena and invite friends and relatives to come out and play some shinny.

Susan's mother is staying with us for the holidays.The first time I entered the guest room after she arrived, the door jumped back in my face, nearly whacking me in the forehead. Her suitcase was lying on the floor behind the door. I slid it just enough to allow the door to open freely. The next time I went into the guest room, the door jumped back in my face, nearly whacking me in the head. Again, I bent down and slid the suitcase just far enough from the door so that it could swing open freely. If, at this point, you're wondering why I didn't just avoid going into the guest room, it's the only way into the laundry room.

The next time I pushed open the door, it bounced back in my face, nearly fracturing my nose! Grumbling now, I slid it just out of the way of the door. As I stood up, I suddenly stopped, stunned. As a queasy feeling quickly grew in the pit of my stomach, I realized I hadn't checked  the whereabouts of the cookie jar lately.

Monday, December 20, 2010

He's Checking It Twice

Not even the delightful rendition of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" by The Living Voices could ease the boil. I wish my reaction could limit itself to mere annoyance, but I won't lie, it's usually anger.

Perhaps it's none of my business. Then again, I sit in the seats, my wife sits in the seats, friends sit in the seats, along with other civilized commuters. The cost of my monthly pass is almost certainly calculated on the basis of seat sustainability, along with the cost of cleaning and maintaining the seats. Therefore, it's entirely my business.

I do give them a disapproving glare, sometimes, more than one. I yearn to bark sternly, "Put your feet down! You know, you're not alone on the planet! Have you ever heard of consideration?"

Why would these louts and boors put their feet up on train seats? People come straight off the outdoor platforms into the train with snow, sand, salt and dirt on their boots. The floor, inevitably, becomes wet and dirty.

These jerks make themselves comfortable and put their feet up on the seats, boots and all. On the train home tonight, it was some young, thick-thighed walrusette. Not only was she blabbing loudly on her phone, but she put one of her boots up on the seat facing her. On the way into work today, it was a young guy with his hoodie pulled over his head, who sat down and promptly put both his mucky feet on the seat in front of him so he could type on his laptop.

A few weeks ago, a couple of train employees with the word "Surete" on the the back of their vests told one of these louts to put their feet down, but their patrols are few and far between.

The young ones seem to put their wet winter boots on seats, while the older galoots take their boots off and put their stocking feet up on the seats in front of them. How nice for you and thanks for welcoming us into your living room!

These are common wal-mart oxen for whom the rules apply to everyone else. They park in handicapped spaces. They don't pick-up after their dogs. On their way to the bar, they park on your lawn and litter it with beer bottles. Wal-mart oxen give oxen a bad name. They ought to be taught consideration and respect for others with the help of an electric cattle prod!

Is it me?

It's me, isn't it?

Is anyone else angry that inconsiderate boors roam our society, unchecked?

What I need is my share of diffuse responsibility, where we all get such a small slice of social responsibility that no one is compelled to actually be responsible. On the train, I listen to my music so I don't hear them bellowing self-importantly on their cell phones (see September 12, 2010 blog), next, I'll close my eyes so I don't see them putting their boots up on train seats.

It'll be a wonderful world until I open my eyes and ears to see and hear what I haven't done.

Still, what's the point of being considerate, obeying the rules and respecting others while wal-mart oxen ignore the rules at our expense with no consideration for anything but their own whims?

Is it me?

It's me, isn't it?

What do you recommend? Should I knock back a bottle of chill pills, or wisely resolve to wallow in social indifference this New Year?

It's Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year!

Besides, according to The Living Voices, the list will be checked twice; I'm good.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I Am Disappointed Sam I Am

Nice going, Sam!

Only one province in Canada chooses not to suspend the license of a driver with a blood-alcohol level of .05 and that's Quebec. Long live drunk driving; innocent victims be damned!

In every other province, a blood-alcohol level of .05 is too high to be behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. In every other province, driving with a blood-alcohol level of .05, or 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, will automatically get your license suspended for 24 hours.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving points out 20 per cent of drunk driving deaths are caused by drivers with a blood-alcohol level of between .05 and .08. Here in Quebec, it seems those lives are worth the gamble.

Why? Here's the explanation offered by Transport Minister Sam Hamad this week, "We have to listen to the people and Quebecers aren't there yet."

Are you kidding me?

Quebecers aren't "there" yet? Aren't "where" yet? They're unable to act like responsible members of society yet? Unable to make responsible choices yet? Too immature? Too stupid? We don't have enough jail cells to pack them all away?

Who did you ask, Sam, because I'm pretty sure it depends on the Quebecers you asked. You see, if you ask a Quebecer who's lost a loved one to a drunk driver, I have a feeling they're "there" now and have been "there" for a while. If you ask someone like myself, who doesn't drink and drive and who is often out on the road with my family, I'm "there" now!

If you ask other responsible Quebecers who buy into the "don't drink and drive" or, "if you drink, don't drive" philosophy, we're all "there" now. We'd certainly rather not be out on the road risking the lives of our loved ones as drunk drivers travel amongst us, whether their blood-alcohol levels are .05, or .08, or higher. We'd rather our loved ones never had to share the road with drunk drivers.

Don't you feel that way, Sam?

Have you spoken to anyone who's lost a loved one to a drunk driver? No other opinion should matter. One life lost is one too many.

On top of which, since when do you let Quebecers decide safety regulations? If it were up to Quebecers, mandatory seat belt use, 100 km/hr speed limits and warnings on cigarette packages would likely still be proposals.

Is human life worth more in other provinces?

In 2004, Nicolas Fortin was hit and killed by Gilles Francoeur in the Laurentians. The drunk driver drove from the scene of the accident with the 18 year old victim's body embedded in his windshield. Two other pedestrians suffered multiple fractures in the hit-and-run. Francoeur got two years. No justice there. Hmmm, perhaps human life is worth less in Quebec.

In November 1997, a young dentist who'd recently graduated from McGill University, Djavid Khales, was out for a walk when he was hit and killed by a drunk driver in Dollard-des-Ormeaux. The drunk driver, Edward Lariviere, had three times the legal limit in his blood, he was driving without a license and he was giving his 16 year old daughter a lift at the time. Lariviere got three years. No justice there. Clearly, human life is worth more in other provinces.

Alberta adopted a legal limit of .05 in 1975. It was adopted in British Columbia in 1979 and, in Ontario, in 1981. In Saskatchewan, the legal limit is .04. Even in France, where the legal limit was lowered to .05, human life is worth more.

When she was Quebec Transport Minister, Julie Boulet tried to have the legal limit lowered to .05. L'Action democratique and the Parti Quebecois united to reject her proposal. What's the problem, is there heavy drinking going on in caucus? Do too many contributors pull out of fund-raiser parking lots, tipsy?

In May 2001, drunk driver Andre Sweeney hit and killed 6 year old Kevin Lavallee in Masseuville. The little boy was riding a bicycle up and down the sidewalk with a friend. Sweeney had two previous drunk driving convictions. In Thetford Mines, in 2001, drunk driver Bertrand Gagne hit and killed 12 year old Marie-Pier Roy and her 9 year old brother, Mathieu.

I have a file crammed with disgusting drunk driving cases with even more nauseatingly flimsy sentences.

Listen, Sam, these are people who choose to put more alcohol in their bodies over choosing to act like responsible members of society. These are people who are choosing to drink and drive. Telling them .05 is ok is like saying it's ok to drink and drive just, if you can, try to avoid killing anybody.

Sam, you can't possibly be suggesting human life is worth more elsewhere. What happened to zero-tolerance? Once upon a time, wasn't that the goal?

You boast Quebec's going after repeat offenders? Nice, Sam, Russian roulette with innocent motorists. Think of our loved ones, Sam, out on the road late at night, steering their way through a crapshoot.

When you say, "We have to listen to the people", what exactly are the "people" saying? Are they saying, "Sam, we're driving drunk; Sam, we have alcoholism issues; Sam, we're a bunch of losers, leave us alone"? They're gratuitously killing and maiming people and your leniency is reprehensible.

In 2001, a 48 year old drunk driver was arrested in Laval, speeding along Souvenir Boulevard. It was his twelfth arrest for drunk drivng and his blood-alcohol was .20. That's a lot of gambling, Sam, old buddy.

The cops should be stationed at bars like the one down my street. They're not. It's all a big joke.

In some ways, Quebec can be so progressive and yet, when it comes to drunk driving, our Transport Minister speaks like an ignorant jackass who owes a beer company a favor.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chirping Crickets

Only one moment of panic during today's live broadcast. In my ear, our control room in Edmonton was asking for the name of the guest who'd just sat down beside me. As the Alouettes player took his seat, I shook his hand and introduced myself. His introduction, though friendly, didn't seem to include his name. Normally, as an interested and long-time fan of the CFL, I could quickly and confidently identify most of the starting players from any of the teams in the league. I had no idea who this fellow was. I had raced through my mental files of  teams, faces and numbers, only to emerge with chirping crickets.

We were live from Place des Festivales. The player sat there, quietly waiting. Again, the crew asked for his name so they could prepare the "super" that would appear on the screen as he spoke. The enthusiastic intern who'd wrangled the player assumed I knew who he was; an entirely fair assumption given I had easily identified the other players she brought to the seat beside me. Here, however, was the exception.

I slowly leaned back in my chair to see whether the name on the back of his jersey was visible. He was wearing a hoodie, the hood of which was draped over his name. I didn't want to have to ask for his name and position. The Alouettes had just paraded through the streets of downtown Montreal. They had just had a rockin' party on stage, as thousands of fans cheered, shouted and chanted, wildly. This was a man basking in glory! I got up as though I had some something pressing to attend to, excused myself and took a few steps from my chair in the hopes the resourceful intern might be nearby. I could see Gloria at the other end of the universe, eagerly lining-up another guest. I stepped back toward my seat, leaned toward my cameraman, Yannick, and said, "Je ne connais pas ce gars la."

As I made small talk with the player, Yannick walked behind our chairs and returned with a whisper, "Le nom sur le chandail est Fontaine". I was still up a creek paddling frantically with my hands! I had no choice. Edmonton was demanding to know what was wrong, we were close to going on-air, so I turned to the man labelled "Fontaine" and said, "I'm sorry, what's your first name?" He answered, "Raymond". Now, I knew he was Raymond Fontaine, but I had no idea what position he played. I asked. He responded, "Linebacker".

I must say Raymond Fontaine was a terrific interview! I hope I get to meet him again.

My part of the two hour broadcast was a lot of fun! I got to soak up the atmopshere and I met some nice people. I interviewed fans Kevin, Shannon, Jerome, Phyllis and Tom. I spoke to quarterback Anthony Calvillo, guard Scott Flory, defensive tackle Eric Wilson, head coach Marc Trestman, Shelly, the wife of kicker Damon Duval and linebacker Raymond Fontaine.

Did I mention Ray is 6 feet 3 inches tall, weighs 230 pounds, was born in Ottawa, played in Kentucky and wears number  16?

Don't forget it.